Sep. 01, 2023

The exhibit, "Companion Species" ponders some of our best friends, some of the domestic animals closest to humanity. There are guides available in the library so you can learn more about the individual artists and works.

Every guide comes with an educational section, great for teachers and home-school families.

Media Release from The Alberta Foundation for the Arts Travelling Exhibition Program

Companion Species features a selection of eighteen artworks depicting some of Alberta's favorite friends: cats, dogs and horses too (needless to say, in this province). Drawing from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts' (AFA) permanent collection, the featured artists in the show span cultures, time and artistic media. Together, their visual interpretations of these three animal groups tell a nuanced story of the deeply intertwined and celebrated relationship between certain animals and humans.
The term "companion species," for which this exhibition takes its name, is popularly attributed to the feminist cyborg scholar Donna Haraway. In her book the Companion Species Manifesto, Haraway uses this term to explore the historical emergence of animals who are not viewed as wild creatures or pests, nor used for meat or in labs, but rather animals that are intensely bonded to the history of human's social, cultural and emotional life. While Haraway's text examines the joint lives of dogs and humans specifically, our relationships with cats and horses (and even cell phones!) parallel many of the observations outlined in her book. In Haraway's own words, dogs are "partners in the crime of human evolution, they are in the garden from the get-go, wily as Coyote." (1)
Dogs, cats and horses each are the subject of countless legends and folklore. They appear in our music, literature and visual culture. Where might we be without these important relationships? And while our histories are deeply connected, it is perhaps what separates us from these animals which offers these interspecies relationships in their unique therapeutic and inspirational qualities. Where our relationships with fellow humans are often complicated through the language we share, and the societal pressures expressed through that language to compete, compare and achieve, many lessons on how to pursue a good life are witnessed in and modelled by these animals for us. In the presence of the cat, dog or horse, we are perhaps reminded that we are perfect just the way we are.
The coming together of this exhibition was guided by a desire to share sentiments of love and connectedness; a desire to add a moment of joy into each spectator's day. I hope this selection from the AFA's permanent collection will charm, ease and enliven your day.